Sound pronunciation of Church Latin vs. spittle-flecked rigidity

I just got off the phone with a representative of a Catholic publisher.  He had some questions about the pronunciation of liturgical Latin.

His experience in digging into this issue is much the same as what I have found through the years, namely, people can get pretty worked up about this stuff.

Relax.

Remember that language is… well.. language.  There are no hard and fast rules to prescribe in human speech.

Sure, there are conventions and "standards" of pronunciation. 

I think we have all heard that "BBC English" was the "standard" for broadcasting the the UK for a long time.  The upper-midwestern accent of the US, such as Omaha, was the "standard" in American broadcasting to which everyone, such as Texans, had to conform.  It is usually held that the Italian of Lucca in Tuscany is the "purest" Italian or the French of, if I remember properly, Orleans, is their reference point in France.  In China, the official stand on Mandarin is the Beijing pronunciation. 

Insofar as Holy Roman Church is concerned, since at least the time of Pius X the Roman pronunciation of Church Latin was considered the language standard.  This has been reinforced more recently, in the time of Bl. John XXIII (e.g., in Ordinationes ad Constitutionem Apostolicam Veterum Sapientia Rite Exsequendam in AAS 54/6 (30 Maii 1962), p. 345 and n. 10.

So,… that would either make Rome the Omaha of the Church, or Omaha the Rome of American broadcasting…. hmmm….

For example, pick up your handy English edition of the Liber Usualis and you will find in the front a section called "Rules of Interpretation".  You will find therein not only directions about how to sing a scandicus and climacus, but also the values of vowels, diphthongs and consonants.

The Liber says:

"In good Latin diction – listen to Roman professor lecturing in Latin – the tonic accent stands out clearly" etc. 

And further…

"Our aim, in compliance with the wishes of his holiness Pius X, is to pronounce and speak Latin in the Roman Style so eminently suitable to Plainsong."

And more…

"Many have never learned the Roman pronunciation or know it imperfectly.  Besides its great importance in Plainsong it makes for that uniformity which inspired the Vatican Edition itself: Unus Cultus, Unus Cantus.  We therefore give a list of the correct pronunciation of the vowels and consonants to which reference can be made in case of doubt; it is advisable to peruse it from time to time."

 

The Liber is rather prescriptive, but… well… you have to say something more than "say it any way you want".  Still, I need to observe that finding a Romano di Roma is getting harder and harder… especially a well-educated Romano di Roma who knows Latin.  They exist, but they are getting rarer.

Also, note that the Liber is not talking about a French guy lecturing in Rome in Latin, but a Roman.  All of us are going to tend, to a greater or lesser degree, depending on one’s "ear" to impose the sound inventory of the mother tongue even on the well-practiced Roman style of ecclesiastical Latin.

So, we mustn’t be overly rigid about these things and wind up breathing spittle-flecked imprecations against someone whose pronunciation strays a bit from personal norms, or those in the Liber…. or elsewhere.

Nevertheless, we should stick to the Roman style to the best of our ability.

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92 Responses to Sound pronunciation of Church Latin vs. spittle-flecked rigidity

  1. Joseph Dylong says:

    Fr

    If we teach ourselves latin where would we start in terms of pronunciation, especially in the Roman Style. Are there any CDs etc, which may aid in the learning process?

    Also, in terms of the extraordinary rite, to what extent will the Popes decree be taken up in the tribal regions (African, American, Asian etc) of the Catholic Church? I ask because in some of those areas there are things like liturgical dance, from what I understand, is allowed under the Ordinary Rite rubric for those areas.

  2. Cory says:

    Try the “Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin” by Collins. You can look it up on the barnes and noble website. It has a guide how to pronounce the vowels, consonants, and dipthongs. Perhaps youtube has videos of Latin pronounciation…..

  3. Joseph Dylong says:

    Great, I found it on amazon

  4. Mitch says:

    Let’s pray the next generation, with renewed interest in Latin and the internet facilitating its’ learning, finds a Roman in Rome who speaks Latin easier than today. I see many things promoting its’ use, but that is because I am looking. Does anyone know the statistical effects and if renewal efforts will pay off in a decade or so? Also, being the official language of the Church and no one else claiming its’ use Rome should be the Omaha of pronunciation. It is right and just at this time in history.

  5. Jason says:

    Quod nomen mihi est!

  6. Deusdonat says:

    Unless you are filipino and replace your f’s with p’s or from the state of Georgia and make 3 syllables out of the word “there”, then there really shouldn’t be any difficulty speaking Latin, since it only has 5 vowels to choose from. So, if you simply learn to pronounce your vowels phonetically and remember the few consonant differences from English (i.e. tio = tsio, ch = k, sc = sh etc) then you can’t really go terribly wrong. The problem is that many people never learn to speak phonetically (the English and Irish are among the worst offenders) and juxtapose their own complex vowels on the language (i.e. pronouncing “no” as “neh-w” etc which produces a cloyingly effeminate “neh-wvuws oawdeh-w”). [Excellent, then, for the members of the Sardinian Catholic Church.]

    Incidentally, Father Z, regardless of what the Romanisers have put forth, among Italians it is actually agreed that Sardinian is the closest to Latin in pronounciation, and NOT Roman. In the immortal words of Aldo Moro (RIP); “SPQR…sono porci questi romani.” [Or as many Romans say ... "Solo Preti Qua Regnano".]

  7. Berthold says:

    Roman Latin means Italian Latin, thus Latin pronunced more or less according to rules of a different (although related) language. Although many curial officials speak Italian, this language is just one of thousands of vernaculars (albeit a beautiful one) – so there is little reason why it should authoritatively guide the pronunciation of Latin. I would see stronger reasons for two other directions. The first would be a return to the classical pronunciation, which can now be reconstructed quite well; it seems to me always a disgrace that Latin is the only language that is pronounced by everyone like his or her vernacular (having been exposed to the difference between German and English Latin I know what I speak of). Classical pronunciation is alien to many (including some classics teachers) but very expressive and beautiful. Alternatively one could assume that throughout many centuries Latin has always been pronounced differently from country to country, and that, for instance, a Thomas Aquinas composed his ‘Pange lingua’ for a Latin that sounded very different of that Hermannus Contractus had used for the ‘Salve Regina’. As it is not feasible to sing evey piece in ‘its’ original pronuncation one could just keep local habits. Both ways have their Pros and Cons. The first may be reminiscent of the Renaissance attempts to force the early Christian hymns into a corset of humanist grammatical purity, and the second may create a distinction between ‘correct’ and ‘ecclesiastical’ Latin. Finally, this is not a question one should get too heated about, and it is also quite easy to switch pronuncations, I use an average ‘Church Latin’ in church and a quite drastic classical pronunciation at University occasions (it is my job to present the degree candidates of my college in Latin to the Vice-Chancellor, we still do such fun things in Cambridge).

  8. Deusdonat says:

    Berthold – The first would be a return to the classical pronunciation, which can now be reconstructed quite well

    I’m curious; since there were no recording devices used 2 + millenia ago, and those living in the classical era are dead and burried, how can this pronounciation be reconstructed (at all, let alone quite well)?

    As I said in the post preceding yours, Sardinian is the closest to Latin among linguistic ethnogaphers given its complete latinization under Roman occupation, but given its isolation has effectively withstood subsequent invastions by non-Latin speaking peoples (whereas Rome itself has not).

  9. Mery del Val says:

    My problem is that, whilst I consider my pronunciation to be about alright, I sometimes find I am uttering a wrong case ending by human error. An example would be what one so commonly sees in blogs where people have written ad orientum, when they mean ad orientem. Should these accidental mistakes be rectified by repeating the words (that would always be the case in the Canon and in the words of Consecration), or left, by analogy with one’s occasionally stumbling with words in English?

  10. Deusdonat says:

    Mery – if you are confusing those two words, it is a clear sign that you are not pronouncing them phonetically; instead pronouncing them both as “oh-ree-ent-uhm”. I assure you get the phonetics down, there is no room for mistakes like those.

  11. Stephen says:

    In listening to the recent Cistercian Chant CD -Music for Paradise – Stift Heiligenkreuz – I noticed a marked difference in pronunciation of certain words, particulary evident in the gloria at the end of the psalms.

    I would alwys pronounce “in principio” in the Italian way, the “c” being the eaquivalent of an english “ch”, as in “church”. The Austrians seemed to pronounce it as an “s” or perhaps a “ts”.

    Anyone else notice it?

  12. David Andrew says:

    As a music director one problem I’ve come across is folks who were taught to sing ecclesiastical (if that’s the correct term) Latin using Classical Latin rules, hence “Bay-nay-dic-tuhs” instead of “beh-neh-deek-toos” for “benedictus” in the Ave Maria text. As a choir trainer I can safely say that the use of Classical pronunciation for sung Latin is really just plain aesthetically ugly. But. . . you’d be amazed at how many people insist that “This is the way Sr. Mary Olephant taught us to sing the Ave Maria when we were in school, and she must have been right.” Nevermind what the Liber might say. The point is, when it comes to sung Latin, correct vowel formation has as much to do with beauty of sound and other considerations like blend and balance of voices as it does with being “correct.”

    On the other hand, I had the opportunity to attend low Mass at a FSSP chapel in New Jersey (Our Lady of Fatima, Pequannock) and it was rather humorous to hear the priest (a visiting FSSP priest from Philly) pronounce the Latin with a fairly generic accent, and then hear the responses from the adult altar server in a very distinct Jersey accent.

  13. pelerin says:

    I have been fascinated to discover that Latin with an Italian accent should be the norm. As a teenager I learnt the Pater, Ave and Gloria by listening (in secret) to the recitation of the Rosary on Vatican radio and never having heard these prayers recited by English people at the time, fell into the Italian accent naturally. I have actually tried to change unsuccessfully to an English one but the Italian rhythm still returns – and I don’t even speak Italian!

    I am pleased to report that last week in Lourdes, priests of the FSSP celebrated an EF Messe Chantee avec Schola twice a day during the annual French pilgrimage – and also an early morning Low Mass. Magnificent ancient vestments were worn.
    Both the Crypt and the Upper Basilica were used and each Mass I attended there was standing room only with many young people present.
    I do not know whether this was a regular occurence as on my last day the EF was celebrated by an Irish priest who surprised the congregation by apologising first in French that he was still learning French and that he would be giving the homily in English.

  14. Bro. Maynard says:

    Deusdonat: Reconstructions are possible, among other ways, (i) from comparative analysis with other Indo-European languages and (ii) because in ancient times people transliterated words between different languages (for example, we know Caesar was pronounced “kaisar” not “seezur” (English)or “cheysar” (Italian) in part because the contemporary Greeks wrote it as Kaisar and so did (later) the Germans).

  15. Scott says:

    Mea sententia, melius est et barbare et abundanter loqui quam eleganter ac vix!

    Or, again, anything worth doing well is worth doing poorly.

    I understand from Nancy Llewellyn (arguably the greatest living Latin teacher) [I'd wager she would say that Fr. Foster fills that bill.] that Fr. Suitbert, who “spoke Latin like a Stradivarius”, also pronounced “mihi” has “mee-hee” (rather than the Liber’s prescribed “mee-kee”). None of us can hope to speak like Fr. Suitbert, but this at least goes to show that variation is always the norm, rather than the exception, in any living language.

  16. Gloria says:

    Ah, the memories. At St. Mary’s Academy (high school) in L.A., 1940s, we learned classical pronunciation, e.g., Tota Gallia diwisa(divisa)est in tres partes. Caesar was Kaisar – you get the picture. Somehow we had no difficulty switching to ecclesiastical Latin for liturgy and hymns. It was the backward and sideways positions one has to get into to translate a sentence, trying to find out where the subject was in relation to the object, etc. Introit, 14th Sun. after Pentecost: Behold, O God, our protector, and look on the face of Thy Christ = Protector our, behold, God, and look on face Christ Your (Protector noster, aspice, Deus, et respice in faciem Christi tui:). After finishing Cicero (third year Latin), I gave up before Virgil killed me.

  17. Matthew M. says:

    Deusdonat,

    just to add to Br. Maynard’s helpful note: another source for ‘original’ classical pronunciation is by studying the verse of the period. Rhyme and meter, over the course of many poems, can give substantial clues.

  18. Maureen says:

    People from German countries tend to speak Latin more in line with classical pronunciation, and a lot of American Catholics learned Latin songs from little German sisters. So they’re not singing it wrong. You have a right to teach the pronunciation you want, and I hope you do; but don’t diss the sisters.

    Every country in Europe has its own native Latin pronunciation; and early music aficionados spend a lot of time learning to sing the breed of Latin that the composer probably used in his time and place.

    It’s not _wrong_; it’s just not the _same_.

    And the standard American broadcast pronunciation is not Omaha; it is Cincinnati, because that’s where WLW is. [Entirely new to me.] Ironically, Cincinnati pronunciation has now shifted enough to be a clearly different dialect from its surrounding region of Ohio. (Same thing with Columbus.) So Dayton is probably closest to the pure quill of American broadcast English — except that Dayton has made itself notorious among American linguists for its chameleon-like qualities of employing lots of different pronunciations of the same words in the same conversation. (I never thought I’d see a senior linguist look that frustrated and that interested at the same moment, as when Dayton was mentioned. Personally, I’m totally comfortable worshing stuff in the washing machine, or washing stuff before my trip to Worshington; but it’s rough on the standard classification schemes.)

    The Nebraska dialect map is also pretty interesting, IIRC.

  19. Gregor says:

    Stephen,

    yes, the Heiligenkreuz monks use the traditional German pronunciation (e.g. “c”=”ts”, “sc”=”sts”, “gn”=”gn”, i.e. not “ny”), which has been used here for centuries. This is what I wonder about. Of course, when you don’t have a traditional local pronunciation, the logical thing would be to learn the Roman one. But when you have such a traditional local pronunciation like here in Germany, wouldn’t it be more, or at least as, fitting to preserve that? All the older priests who still know Latin from their Seminary days use this pronunciation. But as Father says, this is language, so either way it should not, perhaps, be treated as a dogmatic question. That said, I personally am not in favour of the reconstructed classical pronunciation. In my eyes, this would be pure archeologism, replacing a living language with a developed (organically, if you will) pronunciation by an artificial reconstruction of something dead. You wouldn’t think of replacing current English pronunciations with the Old English/Anglo-Saxon one, would you.

  20. Wm. Christopher Hoag says:

    May the Sacred Heart have mercy on my soul…

    I teach my pupils the Econe pronunciation!!!

  21. Jane Fulthorpe says:

    Father Z,
    You’re right about everything 99.99% recurring, and every day I learn more from you than I ever hoped to know. And I mean that in all sincerity. But for the record – it’s not Orleans but Tours that claims the most pure pronunciation of French – or did when I learned my French pronunciation more than half a century ago. I don’t know when it stopped being the capital of France before Paris muscled it out(rather as London did to Winchester, some centuries ago),but I think Tours still claims the distinction. [Interesting.]
    As for Latin pronunciation, in England we always distinguish between ‘Oxford – scholastic’ and ‘Church’ Latin. The former would have for instance, ‘whenee, weedie, weeky’ and the latter ‘veni…’ etc; the former would have ‘kayli’ and the latter coeli (chayli). It would be interesting to know when these differences began.
    I was a Gregorian Chant chorister for 25 years and reared on the Liber Usualis. The way to sing ‘excelsis’ in the aoustics of most churches was ‘ekshaelsis’ not ‘exchelsis’, ‘mihi’ had to be ‘meekee’ to reach the back pew, and one should never elide ‘cujus latus’ in an ‘Ave Verum’. As our choirmaster said, ‘There is no such word as cujuslatus in Latin!’ (Even well respected and recorded choirs still fail that test.) I often mused during my choir years that the softer consonants were more in keeping with what the monks who wrote those sublime tunes would have heard in their heads. And you know, if you sing the Chant for a long time, you get to know what mood the guy was in when he wrote the black squares: you know when he’s had too much to eat or drink, and it’s too hot to think straight, or it’s so cold he can hardly hold the quill. I’m not thinking of the well known bits, but all those Introits, Graduals, Alleluias, Communions etc., week in week out. And yet they managed in spite of all, to hand down to us this amazing treasury. It is our heritage. We have to fight for it. And with the help of ‘Benoit Seize’, gloriously reigning, we will do so. Well that’s enough for now!
    With the assurance of prayers,
    Jane

  22. Deusdonat says:

    Bro Maynard and Matthew – thanks for your posts. As a linguist, I am aware of comparative analysis through transliteration. But generally this only works for consonants. I am therefore EXTREMELY skeptical of anyone who claims “reconstruction”, when in reality it is merely an educated guess. An obvious example of errors which can occur in the transliteration process is when you go from a language which has many vowel forms (possibly as many as English, but unfortunately never bothered to create any letters for them), to one that has limited ones. Thus, from the Hebrew which as all Semitic languages had many vowels but never bothered to come up with letters for them, we get from YHWH, YKB, YSH or approximately (?) Yahweh, Yacub, Yeshua to Iehova, Iacob, Iesus in Latin.

    The one saving grace in Latin is that it utilised vowels in writen language. This makes the educated guess more substantial, as opposed to Aramaic or Egyptian Hieroglyph for example, which does not have written vowels. In these cases, one must rely solely on the consonants and implication of the vowels made by the subsequent population heirs of that language. Thus, my point stands with regard to the Sardinian population.

  23. QC says:

    I once heard a visiting Italian priest offer the EF and it was definitely different sounding than the usual American priests–it was much more sing-songy (as you can tell, I am no language expert!)

  24. geoff jones says:

    to say the ‘H’ not not to? An FSSP priest i know told me that it ought to be sounded, but then again Italians are “aspirationally challenged” (ie, they can’t and don’t say them).

    I have always been more comfortable sounding the ‘H’s, and, indeed, it helps reduce ambiguity between certain words, and it seems to me that dropping the H is to make a virtue out of necessity.

  25. Gregor: I personally am not in favour of the reconstructed classical pronunciation. In my eyes, this would be pure archeologism, replacing a living language with a developed (organically, if you will) pronunciation by an artificial reconstruction of something dead.

    For Church Latin I agree. That would be wrong.

    I was first trained entirely in a secular university for Latin, focusing on Classical Latin. So, when I read certain authors whom we know were still partly in that older pronunciation, I do tend to make a shift… when reading for myself, that it. I wouldn’t, for example, sing a lesson for Matins from Augustine or Leo in anything but ecclesiastical Roman style pronunciation.

  26. David Andrew says:

    Maureen,

    It wasn’t my intention to “diss Sister.” Quite the contrary, I appreciate and understand perfectly your insight as to how dialects (like the German nuns teaching Latin with a uniquely German accent) could impact the result. I was dissing the stubborn choir members I’ve encountered who couldn’t be told. It was actually more humorous than frustrating, and frankly I haven’t had a real problem with it for several years now.

    As fewer and fewer people are being taught Latin (unfortunate, indeed), fewer and fewer choir members challenge my pronunciation instructions (fortunate, for me at least).

  27. Andrew says:

    Apart from the question of voice, something else is very important: the speaker must know the language he’s trying to use. If he does not, his lack of knowledge will show up like a flash of lightning. I can tell (and I don’t know how this works) with absolute certainty if the speaker knows Latin or if he’s merely mimicking the sound of it. There is something about human speech that betrays the speaker’s own comprehension or lack thereof. Even if he’s reading the text, if his own comprehension is lacking his voice will give it away. It’s like a sad guy trying to laugh and you know he isn’t happy. So yes, I wouldn’t get too bogged down about the “rules” – even though they are very simple. More important: know and understand what you are saying.

  28. tfm says:

    “Umph — a lot of nonsence, in my opinion. Making boys say ‘Kickero’ at school when — umph — for the rest of their lives they’ll say ‘Cicero’ — if they ever — umph — say it at all. And instead of ‘vicissim’ — God bless my soul — you’d make them say, ‘We kiss ‘im’! Umph — umph!”

    Goodbye, Mr. Chips

  29. Thomas says:

    Singing in the classical form is problematic for the reason of dipthongs–they cannot exist the way the chant is written.

    And fortunately, my father is consistent in pronouncing worsh whenever saying \”wash\”

  30. Wm. Christopher Hoag says:

    Regarding the pronunciation of the “H”, the norm that I teach is as follows:

    An “H” is normally silent in spoken ecclesiastical Latin.

    When an “H” occurs between two “I”, it is pronounced “K”, e.g., “nihil” sounds like “nee-keel”.

    When a word ends in a vowel sound and the following word begins with “H” and the same vowel sound, then the “H” is pronounced.

  31. Publius says:

    Waynee weedee weekee! So there! If it was good enough for “Kaisar” and “Kikerow”. . . :-P

  32. joshua says:

    Reading St. Thomas (without editings changing his spelling, for instance reading the leonine edition) is a good way to learn ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation. æ oe are both just written e, he leaves out h´s at the beginning of words, etc. The one way he does depart, and in this he is like the Germans, is with the “c”. It is pronounced, for him, like the t in “tio” endings. Hence he interchanges c´s and t´ sometimes. The Germans also pronounce magnus and agnus hard.

    For what it is worth, by the time of Cicero Latin had already changed somewhat. I am given to understand that the v´s were already as in ecclesiastical. Which would just show that it was a living language, rather arbitrary to use “classical” pronunciation in place of ecclesiastical.

  33. joshua says:

    Mr. Hoag,

    At least in the liber it just says “h” is always silent, except in mihi and nihil and their compounds, where it is pronounced “k” (it was michi and nichil at one time, incidentally Aquinas still spells them with the c ;)

  34. John Enright says:

    [Or as many Romans say … “Solo Preti Qua Regnano“.] Um, shouldn’t it be qui rather than qua? [Whatever.]

  35. Deusdonat says:

    Father Z – [Or as many Romans say … “Solo Preti Qua Regnano“.] Um, shouldn’t it be qui rather than qua? LOL! I forgot that one!

    John Enright, not to get into to much of a linguistic debate, but in Italian “qui” and “qua” are basically interchangeable (as are aquí and acá in Spanish). The only ever-so-slight difference is that “qui” can be nuanced as “right here” whereas “qua” can be “around here” (i.e. in the general vicinity). But in most Italian dialects/languages there is just one word for “here” which is qua/ca/cca/ccà.

  36. RBrown says:

    I once heard a visiting Italian priest offer the EF and it was definitely different sounding than the usual American priests—it was much more sing-songy (as you can tell, I am no language expert!)
    Comment by QC

    Unlike us Americans, Italians pronounce vowels distinctively. We have shortened vowel pronunciation so much that many sound the same.

    For example:

    We pronounce “opposition” as if it’s spelled appasition. But Italians will actually pronounce both O’s in the Italian version.

    In American pronunciation of Latin there is often very little difference between ANIMUS and ANIMIS. But Italians will distinguish the last syllable of each word: MOOSE and MEESE.

    The Italian attention to vowel pronunciation makes it a very melodic language.

  37. Tomás López says:

    Deusdonat:

    You are confused, aquí and acá are NOT ‘basically interchangeable’ in Spanish. Start by looking up acá in the DRAE and then ask any native Spanish speaker.

    If you care to debate this, my email is tlopez-ortiz at hotmail dot com.

  38. Jack007 says:

    Sorry, I’m still stuck on “spittle-flecked” rigidity.
    Fr. Z, you do have a unique sense of literary humor!
    Its as though you have what we Latins call “chispa” (literally means spark) but in English! :-)
    It provokes a real visual.

    As an aside, the website issues have been cleared up. My site was indeed hacked. It has been redone, now with SUBSTANTIALLY greater encryption and safeguards.
    My apologies again to all who were unwittingly infected.
    Jack in KC

  39. Berthold says:

    I am not a linguist by training but I have the feeling that some late antique grammatical treatises have quite detailed comments on Latin pronunciation, even describing the position of lips and tongue for different sounds. To what extent these texts reflect the common standard or only what their authors regarded as correct is naturally another question. However, reconstructing classical Latin does not seem a totally hopeless task.

  40. Richard says:

    There are plenty of different Latin pronunciations; not only the “old” and “new” schoolboy methods but also legal Latin which has developed its own distinctive sound. I’m told that the medical profession also used to have its own way of pronouncing Latin. I see no reason why Ecclesiastical Latin should not have its own pronunciation as well. And as a living language, it need not follow classical rules.

  41. ekurlowa says:

    One af my friends said, that english pronuntiation of Latin words is most awfull. :)
    In Russia (I’m from) and Poland German pronountiation is used in Church and in universities.I always use it, too.
    And when I was in Moskow, I have been at Tridentine Mass, celebrated by fr. Vitalij Leontjev FSSP without minister. It was difficult to respond without ordo Missae (it was second TM for me, and in chapel was three persons, including the priest), because FSSP use Italian pronountiation.

  42. pelerin says:

    It is great that so many people are interested in how to pronounce Church Latin correctly. I have long been baffled as to the correct pronunciation of ‘excelsis.’ In England ‘ex-chel-sis’ seems to be the norm but in France ‘ex-sel-sees’ reigns.

    To add some levity to the discussion I give below a ‘poem’ we used to enjoy reciting at school! (to understand it it should be said out loud)

    Caesar adsum jam forte
    Pompeii aderat
    Caesar sic in omnibus
    Pompeii sic in at

  43. Ciaran says:

    I maintain that to speak Church Latin correctly one must
    follow the macronic method of Father Collins R.I.P.
    As for adopting the classical pronunciation, who really
    wants to sing “Salway Reggina”? Who wants to say “in
    Kayelo et in terra” or “Angnus Dei”? Lets preserve the
    beautiful Roman pronunciation. Also is there a “j” in
    Church Latin? Was it John XXIII who introduced it? My
    1962 Missal at home uses “i” for a consonantal “i” not
    “j”

  44. Maureen says:

    Obviously, the major consideration in singing is “how the guy in charge wants us to pronounce it”. Considering the weird things one has to do to English for the sake of a desired sound, it’s not astounding that we often sing different versions of Latin from what we were taught. Mostly, I think it’s helpful to know a certain spectrum.

    The biggest problem is that, frankly, there’s not a lot of opportunity to practice spoken Latin, just as one doesn’t usually write in it. (When I do, it’s always horribly riddled with grammar mistakes. That’s what happens when you don’t do enough drill and memorization. Beware!)

    So pronunciation is one of those things people are often unsure about, or it may be the only thing they remember from Latin class. That’s probably why people get defensive.

    Choir directors, you can and should be definite about what you want; but super-simple, short explanations and gentleness could help. People might get all worried, otherwise. “Even Latin’s changed!”

  45. Gladiatrix says:

    The rules of Latin pronunciation as taught by the wonderful Josephine Ruscoe for Latin ‘O’ and ‘A’ level:

    All consonants are hard;
    a, e, i, o and u never have the vowel sounds that they have in English;
    v is pronounced as a w;
    y is pronounced as a u (borrowed from the Greeks, along with ‘Heu’ and ‘Eheu’ for which Latin had no equivalents);
    ph is ‘puh’, th is ‘tuh’;
    ae is pronounced ‘aye’;
    ei is pronounced ‘ee’.

    Thus Caesar pronounced ‘Seezer’ in English is pronounced ‘Kaysar’ in Latin.

    Latin as a language should be spoken with an Italian accent, probably the Roman accent, as this is how it is believed the Romans themselves spoke.

  46. Domenico says:

    The discussions on pronunciation of Latin (or Italian, etc.) are always enjoyable. BTW Mery del Val has any connection with the servant of God(Rafael Cardinal) Merry del Val who was the Secretary of State of the Pope St. Pius X?
    That ‘Latin means Italian Latin’ is a convention used since the time of Erasmus, who imposed (oops, introduced) also the pronunciation of classical Greek, still used on Italian schools, that is different from modern Greek.
    I have a suggestion. Buy and listen to a CD from the Westminster Cathedral Choir. You will have the opportunity of supporting one of the best (catholic) choir and to hear a crystal perfect pronunciation of liturgical Latin by male voices from UK. I am (Italian, though not from Lucca, and am )always moved hearing this Choir. Try first ‘Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli’ (CDA66266 from Hyperion).
    But every English Choir pronounce Latin (and Italian) as il faut. If you like you can try the splendid music of
    ‘Monteverdi: Vespro Della Beata Vergine, John Eliot Gardiner (Conductor), English Baroque Soloists. Label: Archiv Produktion ASIN: B0000057DL’
    or else Monteverdi – Vespers of 1610 (Vespro della Beata Vergine) – Boston Baroque, Martin Pearlman cond. Label: Telarc ASIN: B000003D2F
    and for Germans
    Vespro della beata vergine & Magnificat I/II, Missa “In illo tempreo”
    Hanns-Martin Schneidt cond., Regensburger Domspatzen (Georg Ratzinger) Label: Archiv Pro (Universal) ASIN: B00002556V.
    Splendid music, slendid choirs, splendid pronuciation of Latin. For once you will enjoy to be catholic.

  47. jarhead462 says:

    A little off of the thread here, but I once heard that Romanian is the modern language that most closely resembles latin (pronunciation aside) as used by the Romans. Is this true?
    I know nothing of these things, but they certainly are interesting! One of the reasons that I enjoy this blog so much, is how much I keep learning, about my Faith, and everything else.
    Thank you, Father Z, and thanks to all of your very intelligent Posters.
    Semper Fi!

  48. I deleted a comment posted by “anonymous”. I do not permit posting as “anonymous”.

  49. josephus muris saliensis says:

    But isn’t it fun when one hears foreign latin speakers? such as the gloriously clipped vowels of the French monasteries, or, as I recently heard at St Peter’s Rome, the German pronunciation of Cardinal Shoenborn, with gutteral consonants and the delightful “oe” dypthong pronounced like “o-umlaut”. so “Coelis” is “tzurliss” Such fun.

    At school in England, just to confuse us, we had three pronunciation to work with daily, the classical “kaissar” pronunciation of the classroom. the school prayer latin (it was non-catholic school) of “seezer”, and the “chayzar” Latin for Mass. To this day, the two psalms we used in school morning prayers, I still want to render them in funny 16th century English version which gave us: “Payter noster, qwy ays in seelis, sanctifseetoor nowmen tewum”.

    Even now, serving Mass, you answer quite differently for elderly priests, who speak the Latin, albeit with roman consonant (apart from “g”) but with English vowels, to the way you would for a young priest who puts on a really Italian roman accent. Always polite to fit in!

  50. Tomás López says:

    No one has made any comments about native-Spanish speakers’ pronunciation of eccesiastical Latin. Thoughts?

  51. Domenico says:

    Another suggestion for documents is to look through Youtube (freeware but not quality guaranteed).
    Examples of videos.
    v=GhZBj1Runp8 The Lord’s Prayer chanted in Latin.
    v=4IOOz1Z2OE8 A Papal Blessing and Pope Benedict XVI chants the Lord’s Prayer in Latin
    v=GJVTLxUkfFs The Pope John Paul II says the Latin Canon of the NO Mass. This Mass is reproduced in a CD of DG (I have it). It was the High Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican, June 29, 1985. In this occasion Herbert von Karajan conducted the Wiener Singverein and the Wiener Philharmoniker in the Coronation Mass of Mozart. You can have parts of this in Youtube starting from v=WUFW5GsqPOg (Kyrie) and looking through the correlated videos.
    I recommend the video v=A1L1EQV2i3s in which you may hear the much beloved voice of the bl. John XXIII chanting the Pater Noster in the Mass of His Coronation. I love to hear the voice of John XXIII, the beloved Pope of my youth, blessed in the heavens. He chants the ‘Pater Noster’ out of his heart: ‘Praeceptis salutaribus moniti, et divina institutione formati audemus dicere: Pater noster …’. BTW looking through the correlated videos you can reconstruct all the Papal Coronation by means of 24 videos posted by the Youtube user Brunothelabrador. The Italian comments are from the Italian TV but are unessential.
    In the video v=2CUFPbruf0U you hear the Pater noster from the voice of Pius XII.
    In v=o9Pv-UuGUDM you hear Leo XIII (Ave Maria, Gratia plena, …).

  52. Ioannes says:

    To pronounce misericordiae or mizericordiae? I’ve gone through just about every phonology book in Latin that’s out there, and for no period of Latin through the time of Gregory is there any evidence of a pronunciation other than “s”. Musicians hate the unvoiced sibilant, but as far as I can tell, that is what is correct. Sounds like French if it is pronounced z. Does anyone know how a Roman would pronounce that consonant?

    Till then, I’m heading for breakfast at a greazy spoon.

  53. Ioannes Andreades says:

    That would be Ioannes Andreades.

  54. John Murray says:

    An interesting and indirectly related tidbit. Naxos offers a recording of Faure’s Requiem (8.550765), in which the conductor’s goal was to recreate a performance as close as possible to Faure’s intentions. In other words, an original instrument type version of a relatively recent work. They even aimed to sing the Latin as it would have been pronounced in late 19c French churches! Whether they succeeded, I have no idea, but the intention seemed worthwhile.

  55. Lirioroja says:

    I’d also like to hear some thoughts on native Spanish speakers’pronounciation of
    Latin. I’m a native Spanish speaker (I grew up in a bilingual home) and although
    I never studied Latin, I would pronounce whatever Latin I picked up in church as
    if it were Spanish. As an adult I’ve modified some of my consonants to the more
    Italian pronounciation; however my vowels remain the same. So I’d like to hear
    some of your thoughts.

    Oh, and I agree with whoever said that native English speakers’ pronounciation of
    Latin is ugly. It’s the vowels. They keep making dipthongs out of them,
    particularly “e” and “o”. The best speakers have managed to virtually eliminate
    them from their speech but every now and then one creeps in there.

  56. Thomas says:

    Once, on a retreat, two of my friends and I were praying in Latin, taking turns leading. We all know the prescribed pronunciations, but of course, there will be variations due to the way people speak. We noted that one person’s Latin had a tone of Spanish to it, another a tone of French, and mine had a slight tone of Italian. And another friend of mine was once told that he spoke Latin like an Irishman.

    It is a very interesting thing to observe, especially when the consonants are consistent.

  57. AlephGamma says:

    The only Spanish pronounciation that I remember that we used to sing different from the Italian pronounciation is ekselsis – with the clear vowels and not in the dull ‘mayricuhn vowels. School was in the USandA. I’m still wondering about ‘coelis’ though. I think the Irish priests made us say chelis, but I am not certain anymore. Maybe I’ll just ask dad to say a ‘Pater noster’ outloud since he went to Mexican seminary for a while and see if he remembers it.

  58. Deusdonat says:

    Tomás – Deusdonat: You are confused, aquí and acá are NOT ‘basically interchangeable’ in Spanish. Start by looking up acá in the DRAE and then ask any native Spanish speaker. If you care to debate this, my email is tlopez-ortiz at hotmail dot com.

    LOL. First, I’m not at all confused. Second, I am correct: they are basically (keyword “basically”) interchangeable. As in Italian, the differences are in general vs specific vecinity as well as individual-regional phrases. You can join us at this forum if you care to put forth your own opinion on the subject. And lastly, I have much better things to do than debate you via email on a matter as trivial as this, so I’ll respectfully decline.

    A propósito, no sabes con quien hablas, oye. Soy hispanohablante (y muy fresa) desde la cuna. Así que puedes tener tus opiniones y tal, pero no te creas, eh. Consta que no eres el único ni el “mero mero” en cuanto al castillano. O sea, no presumas tanto ¿entiendes?

  59. Deusdonat says:

    jarhead462 – A little off of the thread here, but I once heard that Romanian is the modern language that most closely resembles latin (pronunciation aside) as used by the Romans. Is this true?

    Jarhead, I sincerely don’t know who told you this, but it is dead wrong. Romanian are essentially the result of Gypsies trying to speak Latin. It sounds more like Slavic to the ear than anything else. Romanians can usually understand Italian to a certain extent, but Italians have a very difficult time understanding spoken Romanian (written is different, as many of the words look similar…but not exact).

    Incidentally, do you remember “The Passion”? The first centurion on horseback that speaks is either Romanian or slavic from his accent if you want to hear what that sounds like. That’s one of the things I really liked about that movie, as they really did their homework and had various regional Latin speakers throughout the movie (i.e. Italians, Spanyards, Romanians etc). I know I shouldn’t have, but I actually laughed a bit when the fat Italian centurion who had been participating in the scourging of Jim Caveziel/Jesus drunkenly shouts, “Credere non posso!” as it was just sooooooo Italian.

  60. Fr. Angel says:

    Deusdonat:

    Excellent Spanish, but you meant “catellano” no?

    I think the Italians pronounce their Latin beautifully, and as someone else said, melodically.

  61. Deusdonat says:

    FRAngel, actually, I meant Castellano (not castillano or catellano). slip o’ the keyboard there. It happens…doesn’t it? : )

  62. Jordanes says:

    jarhead462 said: A little off of the thread here, but I once heard that Romanian is the modern language that most closely resembles Latin (pronunciation aside) as used by the Romans. Is this true?

    Not really. The infallible oracle Wikipedia doth pronounce that Romanian “is more conservative than other Romance languages in nominal morphology. Romanian has preserved declension, but whereas Latin had seven cases, Romanian has five: the nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, and the vocative, and still holds the neuter gender. However, the verb morphology of Romanian has shown the same move towards a compound perfect and future tense as the other Romance languages.” The oracle doth also assert that, “Owing to its people’s geographical isolation, Romanian was probably among the first of the Romance languages to split from Latin. It received little influence from other Romance languages until the modern period (until the middle of the 18th century), and is therefore one of the most uniform languages in Europe.”

    So, one might say that in certain respects Romanian more closely resembles ancient Latin than any other Romance language, but that’s not saying much, and in other respects Romanian bears much less of a resemblance to ancient Latin than other Romance languages.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanian_language

    Deusdonat said: Romanian are essentially the result of Gypsies trying to speak Latin.

    No, that’s wrong. The Gypsies, who call themselves the “Roma,” are descendants of nomads from India who arrived in Europe during the Dark Ages. The “Romanians,” or Vlachs, are an amalgamation of Dacians, Roman and Illyrians colonists, Avars, Slavs, and Hungarians. It is a common error, but there is no historical or linguistic connection between the Hindu “Roma” and their language “Romany” and the Daco-Roman-Slavic-whoever-else-migrated-through-or-settled-there “Romanians” or Rumanians and their language “Daco-Romanian.” Vulgar Latin was brought to Dacia in the second century A.D., and that is why the language continued to be spoken there after the Gothic invasions of the third century forced Rome to abandon the province.

    It sounds more like Slavic to the ear than anything else. Romanians can usually understand Italian to a certain extent, but Italians have a very difficult time understanding spoken Romanian (written is different, as many of the words look similar…but not exact).

    Apart from a smattering of words and phrases, I don’t know Romanian, Italian, or any Slavic tongue, but to my untrained ear, Romanian sounds quite like Italian, at first anyway: as I listen more, the differences become apparent. As I listen to Slavic tongues, however, and compare them to spoken Romanian, I immediately notice that these are from different language families. But then that could just be me.

  63. Paul J. B. says:

    As concerns Ancient Roman pronunciation, not only is there poetry and comparative methods available, there are also some surviving lists of common mispronunciations, at least for the post-classical period.

    I think that the Italianate pronuciation is a good compromise or default where there is no strong or consistent local tradition.

  64. Deusdonat says:

    So, one might say that in certain respects Romanian more closely resembles ancient Latin than any other Romance language,

    Only if one has no idea of what they are talking about and relying on Wikipedia. Sardinian is still the closest to Latin, in pronunciation, syntax and word stems. Anywone knowledgeble on the subject knows this. FYI, my “Gypsie” comment was a joke common in Europe, stemming back to a comment made in 1993 by Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky during a visit to Bulgaria. I’m quite aware of Romanian history, and sorry you felt the need to go to such an extent over a joke.

    I don’t know Romanian, Italian, or any Slavic tongue,

    Really???? There’s a shocker.

    but to my untrained ear, Romanian sounds quite like Italian,

    And to other untrained ears a banjo sounds just like lute. YeeeeeeEEE-HAW!

    But then that could just be me.

    Definitely. Yup.

  65. Tomás López says:

    Deusdonat, I repeat: you are confused.

  66. Clare says:

    I believe there is some confusion about “Classical Latin” vs. “Church” Latin. My understanding is that “Classical Latin” was a pronunciation system dreamed up in the 18th century as an anti-Catholic exercise.

    The fact that Germans use a “k” sound instead of an “s” sound in Caesar does not seem dispositive — why is the German pronunciation a more accurate indicator of the original pronunciation?

    Could some expert please supply the facts?

    Test: Do you think Julius Caesar said “Weni, widi, wiki” (like some kind of a little troll) or “Veni, Vidi, Vic(h)i!” (like a warrior)?

  67. Deusdonat says:

    Tomás – and I repeat, you are entitled to your opinions, however errant.

  68. Jordanes says:

    Yep, there’s the Deusdonat we all know and love.

    If you say you were making a joke, I will take you at your word. However, there is no way anyone but a mind-reader could have known you were joking. You gave no sign that you were engaging in levity, but were giving a serious answer to a serious question. Since there has long been a false belief that “Romany” has something to do with “Romanian,” it was reasonable for me to disabuse jarhead462 of the false notions you had put in his head, even if you did it only in jest. (And by the way, I’d put pretty good money on a bet than I’m much more aware of Romanian history than you are.)

    As for how a language sounds, since you know Italian you’re not going to be able to judge how Romanian sounds to the ears of those who don’t know Italian. In this case you would be “the man who knew too much.” And as for your claims regarding Sardinian and its closeness to Latin, for all we know you may be right, but “Thus saith Deusdonat” is insufficient to establish that. The Wikipedia entry on Romanian is a concise and accurate summary of its relationship to ancient Latin and its comparison to other Romance tongues, and it does not contradict your claims regarding Sardinian. There’s no cause to be disagreeable, especially when someone is agreeing with you.

  69. Ad Multos Annos says:

    Hello,
    So I just wanted to add that I’ve noticed that some members of the SSPX and FSSP and nearly all the ICRSP I’ve encounterd pronounce Latin with a French accent, even the seminarians from Americans and those from outside of France. One of the biggest differences is the pronunciation of the ‘R’ , rather that pronunce it rolling the tounge it is pronunced in the throat, basically the way r is pronunced in France. I suppose there are other differences. Oh and someone mentioned ‘Econe pronunciation’ would this be anything like this?? I know an Irish priest who I think went there for a while and he always pronouces like a French man.

  70. Cristiano says:

    You have to come to Texas to find a real \”Romano de\’ Roma\”. I had to get into heated discussions with my son, the altar boy, on how to properly pronounce ciborium. They should still teach Latin in catholic schools. I told my boy that he better practice his Italian and Latin if he wants to go the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

  71. Deusdonat says:

    If you say you were making a joke, I will take you at your word. However, there is no way anyone but a mind-reader could have known you were joking.

    Unless you had heard the reference or were familiar with European current events (i.e. the Italian mandate to finger-print gypsies and Romania’s denunciation of it, hence the resurgence of the joke). I certainly wouldn’t hold what you know or don’t know as a lithmus test to other readers here.

    And by the way, I’d put pretty good money on a bet than I’m much more aware of Romanian history than you are.

    Whatever gets you to sleep at night.

    As for how a language sounds, since you know Italian you’re not going to be able to judge how Romanian sounds to the ears of those who don’t know Italian.

    That doesn’t make sense. Chinese could sound like Italian to some hick from the Ozarks who had never heard either language before. The opnion of someone who is NOT informed on the languages in question is irrelevant.

    In this case you would be “the man who knew too much.”

    Hardly. Just the man who has done his homework and come to a valid conclusion as opposed to the man who is relying on a quick internet stroll through an unaccredited source.

    And as for your claims regarding Sardinian and its closeness to Latin, for all we know you may be right,

    Then don’t take my word on it. Do your own homework on the subject. But don’t get bent out of shape simply because you are corrected. The internet is great, but there are certain topics which require a bit more study and analysis than looking on wikipedia.

  72. An American Mother says:

    Just to add a little confusion to this already delightfully confused thread –

    When we sang Latin with an English pronunciation (back when we were Piskies), we always pronounced “mihi” as “michi”, with the ch sounding as in “loch”. I guess that splits the difference.

    And speaking of German, the Hannoverians claim that they speak the purest Hochdeutsch in all Germany. I learned my German from an Austrian, specifically a lady from the rural fastnesses up above Graz, and when I was chatting with a man from Hannover one time, I asked him if I had an Austrian accent. He looked pained, and answered, “I’m afraid that you do.”

    Of course, the upside is that everybody thinks I’m a native, because nobody would learn to speak German like that on purpose . . . would they?

  73. An American Mother says:

    Ad multos annos, absolutely agree re the FSSP priests speaking Latin with a French accent — even the ones who aren’t French! I don’t speak a word of French, can barely read a wine list, and even I notice it!

  74. Maureen says:

    Classical Latin pronunciation was not dreamed up as an anti-Catholic plot, any more than dictionaries of Indo-European roots were. Languages change. Linguists study those changes. And poetry lovers were very happy to have a better idea of how Horace and Ovid originally sounded.

    Finally, if you think there’s something less than warlike about Caesar’s Latin in classical pronunciation, I invite you to go see David Drake pronouncing that “v” like a “w”. (Tank guy in Vietnam, lawyer afterward, sf writer now, and the person who has read the Latin classics for fun and tactics since young adulthood.) I wish he’d podcast Latin audiobooks, because he’s got a Latin reading style that’s so straightforward and steely that it could cut you.

  75. Maureen says:

    “the kind of person”

  76. Francis says:

    “My understanding is that “Classical Latin” was a pronunciation system dreamed up in the 18th century as an anti-Catholic exercise” (Clare). What a bizarre suggestion. Is there any supporting evidence for it, or is it just one of those slightly unhinged (maybe even “spittle-flecked”!) theories where everything which is not exactly in conformity with what the Catholic Church presently does is assumed to be a deliberate anti-Catholic conspiracy?

    W. Sidney Allen’s “Vox Latina” is still, to the best of my knowledge, the standard work on the pronunciation of classical Latin. (And yes, it would have been “weni, widi, wiki”.) As to ecclesiastical pronunciation, Harold Copeman’s “Singing in Latin” examines the phonetic evidence for a wide range of countries and eras. What is abundantly evident is that there is no single “right” pronunciation unless one decides in advance that a specific country, and a specific century or two, is the norm to which one aspires.

  77. Dove says:

    Well, I’d just like everyone to begin saying Intro-it instead of Introyt for Introit. That would be a great improvement.

  78. Clare says:

    Thanks for all the comments, but with all due respect I’m still waiting to hear from or about an expert. Maybe I missed that information. Can someone give me a citation to a scholarly work that addresses the issue? Or I could just look it up in the card catalog.

  79. Clare says:

    P.S. I just saw the reference to Harold Copeman, and I will look at that — thanks.

  80. Jordanes says:

    Deusdonat said: Unless you had heard the reference or were familiar with European current events (i.e. the Italian mandate to finger-print gypsies and Romania’s denunciation of it, hence the resurgence of the joke). I certainly wouldn’t hold what you know or don’t
    know as a lithmus (sic) test to other readers here.

    Did you have any reason to believe jarhead462 had heard the reference or was aware you were making a joke?

    “As for how a language sounds, since you know Italian you’re not going to be able to judge how Romanian sounds to the ears of those who don’t know Italian.”

    That doesn’t make sense. Chinese could sound like Italian to some hick from the Ozarks who had never heard either language before. The opinion of someone who is NOT informed on the languages in question is irrelevant.

    Yes, it makes perfect sense. We’re not talking about someone who has never heard either language before. We’re talking about someone who has heard Italian, knows it is Italian even though he doesn’t understand it, and then heards Romanian and knows it is Italian even though he doesn’t understand it. Those who understand one or the other language will immediately detect how different they are, and so it will be harder for him to detect the similarities. I submit that the reason you think Romanian sounds more Slavic than Italian is because you know Italian but don’t know Romanian or any Slavic languages, or don’t know them very well or as well as you know Italian.

    Now please, look at the arguments and filter out the negative emotions you have towards the one making them.

    Hardly. Just the man who has done his homework and come to a valid conclusion as opposed to the man who is relying on a quick internet stroll through an unaccredited source.

    The Wikipedia reference was used because it is accurate and convenient, not because it is the first or only thing I’ve read on the subject. Like jarhead462, I had heard the claim (boast really) that Romanian is closer to Latin than any other Romance language, but I found it wasn’t true. There is, however, a kernel of truth on which it is based, and as unreliable as Wikipedia is, on these points it is unarguably correct. Any standard reference work on the Romanian dialects will say the same thing. Furthermore, you may have noticed that the Wkipedia article is heavily and properly sourced. It wasn’t written by someone unfamiliar with the subject.

    Then don’t take my word on it. Do your own homework on the subject. But don’t get bent out of shape simply because you are corrected. The internet is great, but there are certain topics which require a bit more study and analysis than looking on wikipedia.

    I haven’t gotten “bent out of shape,” Deusy, and I haven’t been “corrected,” I’ve been contradicted. I’ve merely noted that you are taking issue with something I said (oddly enough, something in basic agreement with what you said about the closeness of Romanian to Latin) without having anything substantial to back up your assertions. I’ve also disagreed with you and offered counterargument regarding whether Romanian sounds more like Italian or more like a Slavic tongue.

  81. Andrew says:

    The “classical” pronunciation was proposed and adopted by a group of experts gathered in Avignon, in 1957 at the International Congress of Living Latin. Other congresses followed and to this day this model enjoys the favor of the worldwide academia.

    I think it can be useful to inquire about ancient pronunciation.

  82. tfm says:

    The only “Spanish” Latin I have experienced is that posted by http://www.greeklatinaudio.com/ , which I believe the speaker hails from Texas USA. Spanish (or at least Tex-Mex? I am ignorant of any distinction) artifacts abound, among them:

    - H’s are silent or nearly so (which is something I never learned when I was in school, but I see noted in ~50% of how-to-pronounce-ecclesiastical-latin guides; I myself pronounce H, including in mihi and nihil, as H).

    - [H]owever, apparently he is reading a text including J’s, and pronouncing them as English H, a la Spanish (Jesus => Hey-sus, Joannes => Hau-nes, et cetera).

    - The speaker is pronouncing QU as K, rather then KW, eg qui becomes key rather than qwee.

    - Soft C is a sibilant S, rather than CH.

    Probably more, but I don’t listen to it much. In spite of which, I do value the resource, even if it is not perfectly ecclesiastical to my ear, because the gentleman has surely done more in recording and making it available, than I myself am willing to do.

  83. Clare says:

    I did check out some of the sources — without leaving the computer — and not including the International Congress of Living Latin. Copeman seems to refer back to Isidore of Sevilles’ Etymologiae, in which, according to an early-20th-century interpreter, “frequently words of similar sound are distinguished; as, vis and bis, hora and ora, hos and os, marem and mare. From these latter valuable hints on the Latin pronunciation of the time may be obtained.”

    If “vis” and “bis” had to be distinguished, it doesn’t make sense that “v” was pronounced like our “w”.

    I think we’re the blind leading the blind here, and I still would like to know of an authoritative scholarly source on the subject. Maybe the International Congress of Living Latin found some kind of conclusive evidence, so I will try to track down their report.

    As Deusdonat said, there were no recording devices back then, so in spite of what can be learned by the people studying poetry and other literature, I wonder how certain anyone, no matter how learned, can be of the pronuncation of Latin at the time of Christ.

    It seems that the only place the language was spoken continuously throughout the millennia was in the Church, and therefore that would be the most logical place to look for an authentically preserved tradition of pronunciation.

  84. Jordanes says:

    Regarding the debate over the pronunciation of Classical Latin, I think this discussion would be seriously lacking if we don’t quote one of the important authorities on the subject: 1066 and All That:

    Chapter I — Caesar Invades Britain:
    THE first date in English History(1) is 55 B.C. in which year Julius Caesar (the memorable Roman Emperor) landed, like all other successful invaders of these islands, at Thanet. This was in the Olden Days, when the Romans were top nation on account of their classical education, etc.
    Julius Caesar advanced very energetically, throwing his cavalry several thousand paces over the River Flumen; but the Ancient Britons, though all well over military age, painted themselves true blue, or woad, and fought as heroically under their dashing queen, Woadicea, as they did later in thin red lines under their good queen, Victoria.
    Julius Caesar was therefore compelled to invade Britain again the following year (54 B.C., not 56, owing to the peculiar Roman method of counting), and having defeated the Ancient Britons by unfair means, such as battering-rams, tortoises, hippocausts, centipedes, axes and bundles, set the memorable Latin sentence, “Veni, Vidi, Vici,” which the Romans, who were all very well educated, construed correctly.
    The Britons, however, who of course still used the old pronunciation, understanding him to have called them “Weeny, Weedy and Weaky,” lost heart and gave up the struggle, thinking that he had already divided them All into Three Parts.
    (1) For the other date see Chapter XI, William the Conqueror.

  85. Clare says:

    Jordanes,

    That’s funny — but can you keep looking?

    Thanks.

  86. Domenico says:

    Prof. Giacomo Devoto (1897 – 1974), one of the most respected expert of Italian linguistic, expressed the opinion that Dante would have been pleased to hear the Italian children reciting his ‘Comedia’ with such a different accents of the variou regions, from Veneto to Sicily.
    I think that Cicero would have been delighted to attend the Harvard University’s 356th Commencement and listening the 356th [as much as that!] Latin Salutatory Commencement address about Star Wars delivered by Charles Joseph McNamara. At least me, I am very delighted. The pronounciation of this young man sometime surprise me, but as does his entusiasm and his clever ‘oratio’. Latin is alive, after all. Charles Joseph McNamara has all my appreciation (of an amateur).
    Harvard’s Latin Salutatory Address 2007
    http://it.youtube.com/watch?v=47u6IJ2GVdM

  87. Thomas Wayne Hoover says:

    We have been instructed, on the highest Authority, to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.” To my simple way of thinking, that includes pronouncing his name as he did, when speaking his language. With the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, Latin is coming back into the Church–so this time, why not get it right?

  88. Clare says:

    Mr. Hoover,

    We are still looking for an authoritative scholarly source to tell us what’s right. In other words, in the absence of recordings of first-century spoken Latin, how do we know what is the correct pronunciation of, inter alia, “Caesar”?

  89. Thomas Wayne Hoover says:

    Dear Clare,

    In his Vox Latina: the Pronunciation of Classical Latin (Cambridge U. Press, 2nd ed. 1978), W. Sidney Allen writes in the “Foreword”: “The degree of accuracy with which we can reconstruct the ancient pronunciation varies from sound to sound, but for the most part can be determined within quite narrow limits. . . .[C]laims such as [this]commonly evoke the . . . question ‘How do we know?’ And there is no one simple answer to it. The kinds of evidence and argument are various. . ., but the principal types of data invoked in phonetic reconstruction may be summarized as follows: (1) specific statements of Latin grammarians and other authors regarding the pronunciation of the language; (2) puns, plays on words, ancient etymologies, and imitations of natural sounds; (3) the representation of Latin words in other languages; (4) the developments in the Romance languages; (5)the spelling conventions of Latin,and particularly scribal or epigraphic variations; and (6) the internal structure of the Latin language itself, including its metrical patterns.”
    Allen goes on to acknowledge his debt to “a large number of books and articles, on every aspect of the subject, over a period of roughly a century”, specifically mentioning Seelmann’s Die Aussprache des Latein nach physiologisch-historischen Grundsaetzen (1885); Sommer’s Handbuch der Lateinischen Laut- und Formenlehre (1914); Sturtevant’s The Pronunciation of Greek and Latin (1940); Maria Bonioli’s La pronuncia del latino nelle scuole dall’antichita al rinascimento (Part I, 1962); and Alfonso Traina’s L’alfabeto e la pronunzia del latino (1963).
    We know that the word “tea” sounded like “tay” in the 18th century because Alexander Pope and others rhymed it with “day”. The absence of devices such as tape recorders makes no difference to our certainty. The same applies to ancient Latin.

  90. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Clare,

    Francis and Mr. (Dr?) Hoover are really identifying the expert in the field when they refer you to Vox Latina. I spent a fair amount of my graduate work in classics on Latin linguistics (pragmatics and semantics, principally, but historical as well). It has a great deal to offer on pre-classical, classical, sub-classical (as it were), and post-classical pronunciation. It would be presumptuous and pedantic to tell you just to believe that he’s right, but I find his use of evidence sober and dependable. If you have a hard time locating a copy of V.L., Allen also wrote the entry on Latin pronunciation in the most recent Oxford Classical Dictionary. I don’t remember off-hand whether he deals with post-classical pronunciation. I also keep a copy of Palmer’s The Latin Language handy. One way, for instance, that leads us to believe that classical Latin pronounced v’s like w’s is that the English word “wick”, meaning village, comes form “vicus” in Latin. If Latin had pronounced its v’s like we do, the Old English spelling would have been something like “fic,” as f did double-duty in Old English for v and f sounds. One thing that is reassuring is that the pronunciation given in the Collins primer really corresponds with what Allen says, so there’s no need to choose one over the other.

    When it comes to ecclesiastical/late antique Latin (not exactly interchangeable), things get a little more difficult. I can see the sense it makes to adopt the regional pronunciation of Rome in pronouncing ecclesiastical Latin. Although it is true that there has been a continuous line of people who have spoken Latin stretching back to pre-historical Latium, as the Latin of the general populace evolved into French, Romanian, etc. the Latin spoken by lawyers, scholars, and theologians became somewhat stylized and artificial and differed from the pronunciation of the Latin that was ever anybody’s first language. For instance, we are reasonably sure that elision (the dropping of the final vowel of a word when the next word begins with a vowel) took place in every era when Latin was anybody’s first language, and yet elision is rarely if ever pronounced in ecclesiastical Latin. We know that in the Latin of the late antique world short i’s in stressed syllables sounded more like long e’s than they did like long i’s (e.g. Italian bevere<Latin bibere). When exactly the tipping point occurred in any region is impossible to say. Trying to use scholarship to uncover the exact pronunciation of Leo the Great or Gregory the Great would not be a honest use of scholarship s there isn’t sufficient evidence to answer those questions, so arbitrarily deciding to pronounce ecclesiastical Latin like native Romans do is probably the way to go, even if we don’t get it 100% historically accurate.

    In-tro-it, in-tro-it! Yesh, let’s all pronounce all three glorious syllables!

  91. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Something happened to the second paragraph:

    When it comes to ecclesiastical/late antique Latin (not exactly interchangeable), things get a little more difficult. I can see the sense it makes to adopt the regional pronunciation of Rome in pronouncing ecclesiastical Latin. Although it is true that there has been a continuous line of people who have spoken Latin stretching back to pre-historical Latium, as the Latin of the general populace evolved into French, Romanian, etc. the Latin spoken by lawyers, scholars, and theologians became somewhat stylized and artificial and differed from the pronunciation of the Latin that was ever anybody’s first language. For instance, we are reasonably sure that elision (the dropping of the final vowel of a word when the next word begins with a vowel) took place in every era when Latin was anybody’s first language, and yet elision is rarely if ever pronounced in ecclesiastical Latin. We know that in the Latin of the late antique world short i’s in stressed syllables sounded more like long e’s than they did like long i’s (e.g. Italian bevere<Latin bibere). When exactly the tipping point occurred in any region is impossible to say. Trying to use scholarship to uncover the exact pronunciation of Leo the Great or Gregory the Great would not be a honest use of scholarship s there isn’t sufficient evidence to answer those questions, so arbitrarily deciding to pronounce ecclesiastical Latin like native Romans do is probably the way to go, even if we don’t get it 100% historically accurate.

  92. Ioannes Andreades says:

    I guess I’m not supposed to use triangle brackets:

    When it comes to ecclesiastical/late antique Latin (not exactly interchangeable), things get a little more difficult. I can see the sense it makes to adopt the regional pronunciation of Rome in pronouncing ecclesiastical Latin. Although it is true that there has been a continuous line of people who have spoken Latin stretching back to pre-historical Latium, as the Latin of the general populace evolved into French, Romanian, etc. the Latin spoken by lawyers, scholars, and theologians became somewhat stylized and artificial and differed from the pronunciation of the Latin that was ever anybody’s first language. For instance, we are reasonably sure that elision (the dropping of the final vowel of a word when the next word begins with a vowel) took place in every era when Latin was anybody’s first language, and yet elision is rarely if ever pronounced in ecclesiastical Latin. We know that in the Latin of the late antique world short i’s in stressed syllables sounded more like long e’s than they did like long i’s (e.g. Italian bevere from Latin bibere). When exactly the tipping point occurred in any region is impossible to say. Trying to use scholarship to uncover the exact pronunciation of Leo the Great or Gregory the Great would not be a honest use of scholarship s there isn’t sufficient evidence to answer those questions, so arbitrarily deciding to pronounce ecclesiastical Latin like native Romans do is probably the way to go, even if we don’t get it 100% historically accurate.